New backers on board Teddys

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COLOGNE, Germany -- The Teddy Awards, Berlin's annual event dedicated to the celebration of queer cinema, will be bigger than ever this year, with new backers, including Volkswagen, Amnesty International and European pubcaster Arte.

The Teddy statuettes -- given to a film with a gay, bisexual or transsexual theme that's running in the official program of the Berlin International Film Festival -- will be awarded Feb. 16 at a gala ceremony in Hanger 2 at the Berlin-Tempelhof airport.

The focus of the 2007 event will be the late Italian director Luchino Visconti ("The Damned," "Death In Venice"), who would have turned 100 this year.

In addition to the golden Teddy for best film, Austrian actor Helmut Berger, a long-time Visconti collaborator, will be honored with a lifetime achievement Teddy.

For the first time, Berlin audiences also will vote on a Teddy viewer's choice award. The award is co-sponsored by Volkswagen and Berlin's Tip magazine. The winning film will receive a €3,000 ($3,895) cash prize.

French-German public broadcaster Arte will air the Teddy awards show on Sunday, Feb. 18. On the 16th, Arte will dedicate a night of programming to gay and lesbian films and filmmakers under the title: "The Coming-out of Cinema."

Another first this year is a cooperation between Teddy organizers and human rights group Amnesty International in Germany. To raise awareness about the struggle for human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world, Amnesty will produce a series of film clips and interviews to be streamed at www.teddyaward.tv
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